Although the makeshift tent city at University of the Sciences was a student-run homeless awareness initiative from March 13-20, it served as a grim reminder that thousands of homeless individuals across the nation call this style of living “home.”
For more than 12 years, Alpha Phi Omega
, a national co-ed service fraternity at USciences, has set up a tent city each spring to engage the University community in homeless awareness activities. A tent city is a temporary housing camp comprised of tents and other similar structures that are generally occupied by the homeless.
Because of this winter’s frigid and snowy conditions, the fraternity hosted its tent city event earlier in the semester to best capture the real-life challenges encountered by the homeless population. The organization’s members took turns camping out in the tents and collecting food, clothing, and monetary donations for local nonprofit organizations, such as Philabundance
and Project H.O.M.E.
“Last year, we held our tent city event in April and the weather was much warmer and more pleasant to withstand the tent living,” said Paige Laupheimer PharmD’18. “This year has been an eye-opening experience because we’ve endured every type of weather condition during our week-long event, including snow, rain, and sunshine.”
Stephen Metraux, PhD,
associate professor of health policy and public health, has done extensive research on homelessness and housing, as well as other aspects of urban health. As part of Alpha Phi Omega’s homeless awareness week, Dr. Metraux presented, "Things You Never Knew About the Homeless" to dozens of students on Wednesday, March 19.
“Data on how many homeless are stuck out in the cold are difficult to come by,” said Dr. Metraux. “The homeless population is notoriously challenging to count, as they usually strive to stay inconspicuous amidst the public spaces to which they are relegated.”
However, Dr. Metraux said the most accurate number comes from the City of Philadelphia’s annual Point-in-Time Count,
when teams of volunteers canvass homeless shelters and city streets to count the homeless people and families they encounter. Of the 5,625 homeless individuals recorded on a January night in 2012, nearly 10 percent were unsheltered.
Fortunately, Jenn Hua Psy’14 is not among the hundreds of homeless Philadelphians. However, she said this year’s event made her more grateful for her apartment because some of the evenings during USciences' tent city reached below freezing temperatures.
“We look forward to hosting this event on campus every year, and even though we have fun with it, we realize that homelessness is a serious issue facing hundreds of people in our local area,” Hua said.
Check out more homelessness research conducted by USciences faculty, students: